The first thing I think about when I reflect on 2015 is that I didn't achieve any running PBs at any distance. Now, this upsets me a little bit. So then I think, what did I actually do in 2015? I only did 16 races this year. Although I did a lot more parkruns than in previous years. I remember saying that I wanted to run less than my 1300 mile average for the year and concentrate on getting fast. It simply didn't happen and I wasn't disciplined enough to really try too hard either if i'm honest.
The year started with me coming back from injury and running the Somerley 10k in January. I still remember feeling so fat and unfit. I felt sick running that 10k and I can't even remember my time. I know it was awful though. But it was quite a nice 10k route around the estate.
Not too far away came the Bramley 20 miler. Again, I was feeling unfit and hadn't really trained for the miles. I should have been up to speed as I had the London Marathon just around the corner. I ran Bramley with Mike Mattingly for the first 16 miles and achieved a PW on the course. I didn't intend to race, it was just a case of "getting the miles in".
With the VLM just around the corner, it's best just to concentrate on pace and distance right? Stick to that marathon training plan! Or.... You could just run around an estate in a place called Tollard Royal. This being the very hilly Larmer tree marathon. I was still not feeling that much fitter. This was treated as an adventurous day out with my running buddies Chris and Dean from my running club. It was another PW for me. Over 5 hours to finish a marathon! We did drink quite a bit of cider, vodka and bucks fizz at the love station, at mile 20 though. Perfect training for VLM of course.
Next up was the big one. VLM (London marathon) in April. This is the race which is probably on most runner's bucket list as a must do. I must say that all the hype about this race was putting me off it. I was fortunate to get a lift up with my running club on a hired coach. This made the whole experience even better. I was so nervous about this race that I slept no more than 2 hours the night before and couldn't eat much on the day. Again, I knew I wasn't race fit but I had enough experience to know how I should run this thing, I would start slow and end faster. I was there to enjoy the day and soak up the atmosphere. The last thing I wanted to do was blow up and suffer for the last 10k.
It was an incredible day. Despite not being a big fan of London or crowds, you can't help but get caught up in this race. The crowds are amazing and their generosity on the day nearly brought me to tears. A lot of runners will slag the VLM off and I really don't get why!
Looking back on the VLM afterwards I was gutted to have not trained well and raced it. It may be the only time I ever get to run it after-all. Next up was my favourite race of the year. In May it's The Bratton hilly 11.4K. Easily my favourite race ever. One mile up hill to start you off and then massive undulations across the Wiltshire countryside. A small village race with lots of friendly people. I talked Mike Mattingly into this one too and as it starts at 11am, you can run Southwick parkrun beforehand. I feel that this was one of my best race performances of the year finishing in the top 30 but boy did I suffer the following day trying to run Alton 10. Three races in Two days!
I was craving another marathon and I found a good one too. The Arun river marathon. I got the train to Littlehampton on a very hot Saturday morning in May. This was a lovely trail marathon following the river Arun from Littlehampton to Arundel and Amberley and back. Only 100 runners means that it's nice and small but very friendly and very well organised. It was a bit too hot though and I had heat exhaustion at the end. Would definitely do this race again though despite having to run through a load of stinging nettles less than half a mile into the race.
I was off to Cornwall for some skateboarding and alcohol abuse. While I was there I decided to run the Cubert 5 miler. The race is organised by Newquay road runners. I swear I was on for a PB that day and this is definitely a PB course! I was running sub 6.30's pretty comfortably halfway round and then something wasn't right. A week of pasties and Betty Stoggs had caught up with me. I needed the toilet badly. I was only running 5 miles! It was a 2 lapped course (kind of) so I found a portaloo in the school and after 2 minutes I came out to the applause of the spectators. That PB wasn't happing now and I was whizzing past the slower runners as I re-joined the race. Another race I would like to do again for sure.
Ok, this is going on a bit now. I didn't realise I was going to type so much! The Giant's head marathon was another White star running event. This was a crazy hilly marathon based in Cerne Abbas. Again, I ran this with buddies Dean and Chris for a day of laughing and adventure. It was bloody hard work though but the views were stunning. I also made an edit of this as I filmed on the day. It's on youtube somewhere if you're interested. https://youtu.be/1uzBxNjqFks
Every year I crave to do an ultra and this year was no exception. It was to be the Ham & Lyme 50k race. I had heard about this race because of a book I read called "Everything will work out in the long run". The author Dave Urwin was also the race director of this race. He was so helpful with directions, accommodation etc.. I nearly entered the 100k but so glad I didn't as that was the hardest and hilliest 50K I have ever run. I felt such a great sense of achievement when I completed this race because I felt it was that hard. It starts in Ham Hill near Yeovil and finishes in Lyme Regis hence the name of the race. I also got to meet a very nice dude from my running club called Mark Glanville.
At this point of the year I was in my running element and loving the distance. I had booked to run the Fort William marathon in July but wait.. there's a free place going on a 12 hour running event the week before.. Seems silly to let it go to waste right?
This was another incredible experience for me and meant so much. Not only would this be the longest I had ever ran but also the farthest of 55 miles. The race in called Endure 12/50 and it's only in Pangbourne near Reading and doesn't rip you off with overpriced race entry like so many events do nowadays. I think it's about £35? You can run for 50k, 50 miles or a 12 hour run and then you can do it solo or in a relay team. It starts at 7pm on Saturday and ends at 7am on a Sunday morning. I had a wonderful time even if I did get a hard time with Eastleigh running club. They were awesome and let me hang out with them. Also the support from Hedge end running club was fantastic. Cheering for the lone Lordshiller on his solo 12 hour mission. I also got to run with running buddy Carla for a few laps. She ran 50 miles that night and she hadn't even run a marathon before! Incredible girl. I also got to witness Lydia from Eastleigh win the Woman's 50 mile race. Such a bizarre feeling to be running until the sun comes up.
So, it was time to jump in the car with the Mattinglys and head to Fort William for a marathon. I would also get to meet another running buddy. Nigel from Inverness. Was great to chat to him and meet his family in the pub afterwards too. We both share a passion for eating multi-packs of mars bars.
I ran with Mike Mattingly for a bit but struggled with pace and had to walk for a while. The views on this race were so stunning. The best that I have ever seen in fact! The thing is that you think you've seen the lot and then the scenery just keeps on impressing you as the miles pass. About halfway in, something went a bit weird in my knee. I was then walking in pain. I got to the point where it was too painful to walk. I had to keep on running after this. I took my mind off the knee by chatting to other runners and staring up at the snow on the top of Ben Nevis in July! Sand martins flew across in front of me as I passed a loch on the left and a river on the right.
Even when the hills came I had to run. I knew that if I walked again my leg would lock up and my marathon would be over. All I could think was "I'm not travelling 1300 miles to not complete a marathon. I want that t-shirt and medal". I just about finished with a sub 4. Di was with us but couldn't run it because she was out with injury. She had entered the race so I lied and said it was a crap race with nothing to see. She didn't believe me though ;)
After that it was time for me to take some time out from the distance. I was feeling burnt out and low. The highs are a lot higher on the further distances but the lows are even lower as all those miles catch up with you and you struggle to recover. I think I spent August either in bed or in the pub with a bit of cycling, walking and photography in between.
All the free cake you can eat after the Wimborne 10 miler
Overton 5 was my next race in September. No PB was had though and I was actually 2 minutes slower than the previous year. I was feeling a bit annoyed with myself afterwards. A week later I cycled 254 miles from my house in Southampton to Cornwall for my birthday. It took me 4 days in total. Bridport on day 1, Exeter on day 2, Plymouth on day 3 with lots of booze for my birthday then a short cycle to Saltash to see my mate Carl for a nice walk with him and his dog. 93 miles was the furthest that I had ever cycled in one day.
Still not running much, I didn't really have the pace and mileage to race the Solent half marathon at the end of September. I just ran it with Di. I was trying to pace her but we both really struggled and I remember my legs aching for days afterwards. I was just enjoying the cycling a lot more after all the long distance running earlier in the year. I cycled 85 miles to Bath to see my friend SJ. I cycled about 70 miles to kingsclere and did a tour of the places from one of my favourite childhood books "Watership down". I also did a 80+ mile bike ride around the Isle of wight. I was just loving the Exploration but sadly the evenings were getting darker sooner as the Autumn/Winter came drawing in.
I was running again and getting quicker on the shorter stuff. I had run my first sub 20 parkrun of the year thanks to Rob Benham for pacing me. I was close on a previous occasion with a 20.02. It was then time to run the Wimborne 10 in November. Thanks again to Rob B for the lift and company and his comforting words as struggled to believe in my abilities. I was very happy with my 68.59 even though it was 2 minutes slower than my course PB. I had a really bad cold on the day and thought that I would struggle to even achieve a sub 70. I really did impress myself that day and my speed was coming back.
Sadly I didn't race Victory 5 and just got myself round. Legs were hurting from a 20.05 parkrun the day before. I hadn't run for over a week and this seemed to strain the hamstrings which is a current injury but is starting to dissipate.
In total I ran 16 races plus 24 parkruns. 7 of those races were either of marathon distance or over. I have also finished the year on my 77th parkrun in total. Hopefully I will reach my 100th next year
Looking back I had another great year of running with a lot of great memories and I made a lot more running friends and visited some amazing places. I also ran less than 1300 miles this year which is a first in a few years ;)
I look forward to my races, goals for next year which include: Bodmin half marathon, Plymouth half marathon, the Ultra flat 50 and the Kent roadrunners marathon. I have decided not to run with a running club next year as I may be moving to the West country for a bit in the Springtime. Just hope I can find a job! I may well also plan another cycling trip. Possibly LeJog on my mountain bike for a charity in the late summer. Lots to think about, lots to see and lots to achieve :) Looking forward to 2016. Who knows, I may even get around to writing that book that I've been on about for some time....